Forest Ranger Career Information and Education Requirements

Forest rangers require some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and employment statistics to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Forest rangers are responsible for protecting and conserving natural resources, particularly in forests and rangelands. They can work for federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or for state and local government agencies. Their responsibilities may range from the dangerous, such as fighting forest fires, to the administrative, such as managing compliance inspections. An undergraduate degree is typically required for this job.

Education Requirements Associate's degree plus professional experience or bachelor's degree
Job Growth (2012-2022)* -4% for forest and conservation technicians; 3% for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists
Median Salary (2013)* $34,910 for forest and conservation technicians; $33,610 for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Rangers are often the first responders to natural or manmade threats to forest areas and rangelands. They help to combat forest fires and perform search and rescue missions. They may also work to prevent harm by patrolling forest areas on foot or in vehicles, snowmobiles and ATVs. Additional duties may also include ensuring that individuals are in compliance with state laws in regards to hunting, fishing and camping; they also enforce those state laws.

Another aspect of a forest rangers job revolves around educating the public. Rangers may be called upon to speak with groups of adults and kids to teach them how to enjoy the forest without harming it or themselves. They may also speak in schools or with specific youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America.

Education Requirements

Forest rangers are often required to have completed some type of postsecondary education. Some agencies look for rangers with a 4-year degree in a field such as forestry, while others will accept candidates who have an associate's degree along with professional experience in natural resource management. Coursework in a forestry degree program typically includes forest biology, forest measurement and inventory and renewable resource management.

Aspiring forest rangers can start out in forest technician positions before working their way up in the field. These basic technicians work in the wilderness to plant, analyze and improve timber stands, maintain facilities, repair trails, enforce regulations and suppress forest fires. Forest technicians also administer permits for special uses, deliver community education and collect data as required for environmental impact studies.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies forest rangers alongside forest and conservation technicians and forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists (www.bls.gov). While jobs for forest technicians were expected to decline by 4% from 2012-2022, forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists should see 3% job growth over that same time period, as indicated by BLS data. The median salary for technicians in 2013 was $34,910, and inspectors and prevention specialists made a median of $33,610 in that year, per the BLS. PayScale.com reported that forest rangers earned an annual median of $29,671 as of September 2014.

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Oregon (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Oregon State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Forestry and Wildlands Management
        • Fisheries Sciences and Management
        • Forest Resources Management
        • Forest Sciences
        • Wildlands Science and Management General
        • Wood Science and Paper Technologies
      • Natural Resources Conservation
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    • Virginia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Forestry and Wildlands Management
        • Fisheries Sciences and Management
        • Forest Resources Management
      • Natural Resources Conservation
      • Natural Resources Management
      • Physical and Environmental Science
      • Physics
  • Areas of study you may find at Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Forestry and Wildlands Management
        • Fisheries Sciences and Management
        • Forest Resources Management
        • Wildlands Science and Management General
      • Natural Resources Conservation
      • Natural Resources Management
      • Physical and Environmental Science
      • Physics
  • School locations:
    • Washington (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Washington include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Forestry and Wildlands Management
        • Fisheries Sciences and Management
        • Forest Resources Management
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      • Natural Resources Conservation
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      • Physics
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    Areas of study you may find at Stephen F Austin State University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Forestry and Wildlands Management
        • Forest Resources Management
        • Wildlands Science and Management General
      • Natural Resources Conservation
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics